BUSINESSES in the Dornoch and Embo area are being given an opportunity to support an ambitious project aimed at enhancing the local economy.
After laying the groundwork for a Business Improvement District (BID) over the past 18 months, the steering group is inviting businesses large and small to a launch event at the refurbished Dornoch Station Hotel on Wednesday, September 20 from 5-7pm.
A total of 192 businesses will be receiving postal ballot papers from September 28. The count will be carried by Highland Council officials on November 16, with the result expected days later.
BID co-ordinator Paula White has been encouraged by the initial support shown by businesses at a series of meetings earlier in the year.
“We are now reaching a key stage of the process,” said Paula.
“The launch event led by the steering group will unveil the business plan which has been created on the back of surveys which sounded out all manner of businesses in the IV25 postcode area.
“It will reflect what we are planning to do for Dornoch and the surrounding area over the next five years if, as is hoped, the BID vote enjoys the support of the business community.
“There are a few exceptions, such as any business with a rateable value of less than £1000. They are exempt, along with churches, sports clubs and charities – unless they have a trading arm.
“But, otherwise, all businesses on the rateable value list will have a vote on the BID.
“And those businesses which don’t feature on the rateable value list will have an opportunity to join the BID on a voluntary basis further down the line.
“Much of the local economy is heavily dependent on tourism but this is an opportunity for all the local businesses and traders, large and small, to come together to provide a strong collective voice, no matter what sector they are operating in.
“The common denominator is that we all want to see a bright future for the Dornoch area.
“An online business directory and group procurement opportunities are just some of the ideas which will be highlighted at the launch event.
Refreshments will be available at the September 20 business plan launch and those attending will be invited to look round the recently opened Dornoch Station Hotel, which has been transformed after a multi-million-pound investment by owners Marine and Lawn.
Councillor James McGillivray is eager to see businesses embrace the strategy.
“For the last 10 years we have been relying heavily on the work of volunteers,” he said.
“It is now time to move to a more professional level with salaried development and administrative staff in place to do the work necessary to take things further.
“To that end I support and endorse the creation of the Dornoch BID.”
A spokesperson for local law firm Arthur and Carmichael said: “We are voting yes because we want to be part of a united local business community, improving business resilience and prosperity.”
Neil Hampton, general manager at Royal Dornoch Golf Club, stressed: “The BID is the ideal way of bringing all businesses together and giving everyone a voice, and opportunity, to do their bit to make Dornoch even better.”
Self-catering business operator Paddy Murray is also supportive.
“The BID will enable businesses to contribute to improving Dornoch both as a place to do business and as a place to live,” he noted.
“Some projects will be appropriate for just businesses to finance, but some may be appropriate for joint financing with the Dornoch Common Good and other funds and in both cases the BID will form an invaluable vehicle to make these projects happen.
“The model has a proven track record in other towns such as Nairn and Inverness, so this is an exciting development for Dornoch.”